Now firmly established as an annual tradition in the mountains, Choose and Cut season signals the official start of Christmas festivities for many families. Both local residents and out-of-towners take advantage of the numerous Choose & Cut farms throughout the area to pick the perfect showcase for their treasured family ornaments.

Before this unique attraction developed, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was considered a ‘shoulder season,’ one of the periods of the year when little or nothing was happening in the mountains to attract visitors and produce extra income for locals.

Using the same creativity and work ethic that has characterized the Christmas tree industry since it was founded in the North Carolina mountains, local tree growers have once again come up with an added bonus for farmers and local merchants, and an immediate favorite for families who like their seasonal activities along traditional lines.

And what could be more traditional than a North Carolina Fraser fir – the ‘Perfect Christmas Tree’ – a native-grown tree that has graced the mountains since the Ice Age 10,000 years ago.

The Fraser fir sports tight, soft needles, strong branches that hold ornaments, and holds its Christmas aroma - and needles – longer than any other Christmas tree. Picking your own North Carolina Fraser fir off a local farm has become the perfect way to start the holiday season, and for many families the trip up to the mountains to pick out and take home their own North Carolina Fraser fir Christmas tree is already as integral a part of the holiday experience as snow and presents.

And the last few years tree farmers (and retailers and lodging and restaurant owners) have seen that become not only an important outing, but one that is making an economic impact on the whole area.

Starting generally on Thanksgiving Weekend (and on some farms earlier), anyone driving on the roads in Alleghany County can count just about every other car or carrying a Choose & Cut Christmas tree.

Because the number of visitors has steadily increased over the past few years, many local operations are opening earlier and staying open longer to cope with the demand of people driving from all over the Southeast to get a tree and spend some serious quality time in the High Country. Some farms open as early as November 1.

To find that perfect tree, a directory of tree farms have been established with maps and websites to get you headed in the right direction with the right tree.